By 2020, more than 270,000 Australians will experience vision loss or blindness due to an eye condition that could have been managed, according to The State of the Nation Eye Health Report, released this week. The cost to the economy will be a massive AU$16.6 billion per annum.1
The report, published by Specsavers in partnership with the optometric industry, is the most comprehensive look at the state of the nation’s eye health, providing new data and insights on a scale that has not been available before. Amongst the conditions, 41,900 will stem from glaucoma, 91,300 from macular degeneration, 126,400 from cataracts and 13,440 from diabetic eye disease – all of which can be asymptomatic and prevented or reduced by a routine eye test. Yet almost four in ten Australians have not had an eye test in the last year.
the report gives the industry a deeper insight on eye health conditions on a scale of which has not been available before.
With a rapidly aging population and 50 percent of people over the age of 50 likely to develop an eye condition, vision loss is expected to emerge as the most prevalent condition amongst older Australians in future years.2
Collaborative Approach Required
The comprehensive report analyses more than six million patient journeys and discusses a collaborative approach towards eliminating avoidable blindness in Australia. Specsavers Director of Optometry Professional Advancement, Dr Benjamin Ashby said the report gives the industry a deeper insight on eye health conditions on a scale of which has not been available before.
“Use of Oculo has enabled us to aggregate significant health data and uncover trends in eye health that were previously unknown,” he said. “For example, in the past year, Specsavers optometrists who have introduced OCT technology and use it systematically on every patient have seen detection rates double for suspected glaucoma.
“Capturing eye health data has also enabled the creation of industry benchmarking reports, which provide optometrists with the opportunity to understand national average referral rates and ensure their practice is consistent with other practitioners.”
Another collaborative initiative proven to assist Australians with the management of eye conditions is the launch of clear industry guidelines for glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology (RANZCO) CEO, Dr David Andrews said, “When certain signs or symptoms are identified, the use of the RANZCO guidelines for management of glaucoma, AMD and diabetic retinopathy can assist optometrists, GPs and other health professionals to ensure Australians receive the best care possible, in the most appropriate timeframe and with the appropriate health care provider.”
Annie Gibbins, CEO of Glaucoma Australia said routine eye tests are the first port of call for many who end up with preventable but irreversible blinding eye conditions and is calling on those over the age of 40 to value their eye health by getting their eyes examined by an optometrist.“If the entire optometric industry implemented collaborative initiatives such as Oculo, benchmarking and the RANZCO Guidelines supported by OCT, it is estimated that more than 80,000 Australians with signs of glaucoma would be detected next year alone,” she said.
“We would be a lot closer to eliminating glaucoma blindness, which has no cure and currently affects around 300,000 Australians.”
Dr Benjamin Ashby said: “Accurately detecting, diagnosing, supporting and treating clients in isolation is no longer enough. As an industry, we need to collaborate further if we want to truly improve health outcomes for Australians and work toward a country that no longer has its people living with avoidable blindness and vision loss.”
• Over 270,000 Australians are expected to experience vision loss or blindness due to a preventable eye condition by 2020. 41,900 will have vision loss or blindness from glaucoma, 91,300 from Macular Degeneration, 13,440 from Diabetic eye disease and 126,400 from cataracts – all of which can be asymptomatic and vision loss prevented or reduced by a routine eye test. The cost to the economy is estimated to be $16.6 billion per annum.
• Vision loss is expected to emerge as the most prevalent condition amongst older Australians
• Only approximately 35 percent of Australians will have their eyes tested this year.
• 90 percent of vision loss is preventable or treatable.
• In the past year, Specsavers optometrists found that 30,000 Australians showed indications of glaucoma, more than double those detected in the year prior.
• The rise in detections is due to the implementation of breakthrough technology called OCT, RANZCO guidelines and optometry benchmarking.
• If the industry came together, we would be able to detect more than 80,000 Australians with signs of glaucoma next year alone. If two million more Australians had an eye test, this number would increase to 100,000.
• Once over the age of 40, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are three times more likely to suffer vision loss or blindness than non-Indigenous Australians.
• As many as one in four children have an undiagnosed eye condition. Early detection of childhood eye conditions before a child is eight years old is critical as issues uncovered after this time are often untreatable in later stages of life.
Read the full State of the Nation Eye Health Report
1. Access Economics, 2010, Clear Focus: The Economic Impact of Vision Loss in Australia in 2009, A report prepared for Vision 2020 Australia.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics – Census Data 2016
All other information from State of the Nation Eye Health Report, 2018